Bumble Bee Foods agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit to the tune of $6 million in one of the largest known payouts for workplace safety violations in California criminal prosecution history. California resident Jose Melena, met a gruesome death when fellow employees failed to check if anyone was inside an industrial sized pressure cooker at a Bumble Bee Foods Plant. The gigantic, 35 foot long pressure cooker is typically used to sterilize thousands of cans of Bumble Bee Tuna at a time. At the time of the incident, Melena had been inside making repairs when co-workers, not realizing he was there, shut the door, and turned up the heat to 270 degrees. “You don’t have warm blood running in your veins if you’re not affected by the way this guy died. It’s horrific,” stated the assistant head deputy district attorney for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Division office. “I cannot imagine a worse result of violating safety rules than something like this.”
Bumble Bee Foods had apparently failed to implement necessary safety precautions such as installing safety cameras around the ovens, providing training to managers and workers regarding safety regulations, and equipment safety audits. The company was charged with three counts of willfully violating safety rules, which turned into a felony, because of Melena’s death. Two felony charges have also been filed against two employees who were directly responsible for enforcing safety procedures. In interviews with the two employees (the director of operations, and the company’s safety manager), both were aware that employees occasionally entered the pressure cookers, and both confirmed that required safety policies created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were not followed.
This incident will force the company to radically change plant operations. $3 million will be spent to replace the ovens with more modern ones that don’t require employees to step inside. $1.5 million will be paid in restitution to Melena’s family, $750,000 to the district attorney’s Environmental Enforcement Fund, and an additional $750,000 in fines, penalties and court costs.
If you and your family have suffered due to the wrongful death of a loved one, because of negligent employer practices, the lawyers at Hodes Milman Liebeck are here to help you. Contact us today online at hmlm.com or call 866-730-1976 for a complimentary case evaluation.